Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Focus Leading To Record Book Assault For Yoon

August 12, 2018

Notre Dame kicker Justin Yoon has been a consistent force over the last three seasons, but there’s confidence around The Gug the senior could be in for a big 2018. 

Yoon hit a 50-yard field goal during Saturday’s practice with ease and head coach Brian Kelly believes Yoon’s focus is the key to his consistency.

“His focus is amazing,” stated Kelly. “He can tune out everything. He was kicking a 50-yarder, and I was yelling ‘This is too far. This is way too far for you. You can’t hit it this far. Let’s move it up.’

“I do that because he tunes it all out. I asked him what I said, and he said he didn’t hear me. He’s either a great liar or his ability to really focus has been his key.

“He’s going to be an important part of winning this year.”

The ability to tune his surroundings out is something Yoon has specifically worked on throughout the years.

“I would say it took me a while, but a lot of it has to deal with how you mentally prepare yourself,” explained Yoon. “Right before you do what you need to do, a lot of people end up thinking ‘What if this happens or what if that happens?’ You can’t distrust yourself. Trust that you’ve done this for so long. 

“That helps me build that bubble around me where I don’t know what’s going on. I see the ball in front of me, and that’s all that matters.” 

As we get closer to September 1st, Yoon will inch closer to becoming the all-time leading scorer in Notre Dame history. Allen Pinkett’s record of 320 career points is well within reach as Yoon sits at 275 points. 

Yoon admits he’s aware of the record, but his primary goal is to be playing in January. 

“I’ve been hearing it here and there,” laughed Yoon. “My dad has been telling me about it. That’s great and all, but it’s all about if we can do well this season and get to the National Championship.”

Yoon is also chasing another check on his bucket list as he has yet to make a game-deciding kick during his career with the Irish. 

Notre Dame has come close to giving him a shot, including in 2016 against Miami but the score was tied at 27.

“I feel like I’ve had one of those experiences against Miami, but that wasn’t technically a big kick for me in a sense,” said Yoon. “At the end of the day, a kick is a kick. I’d love to have a chance, but if we’re winning, that’s all that matters.”

“My mentality is the same. I shouldn’t change the way I think about it. I’ll probably get a little more nervous and have an adrenaline rush, but every kick should be the same if you want to make it.” 

If Yoon is called on for a game-winning kick, the history is in his favor as he's 8-for-9 in the fourth quarter with his only miss coming against Syracuse with the Irish up by 17 points. 

Range is also a hot topic when it comes to kickers, but Kelly downplayed the importance of specific yardage. 

“Does it really matter if it’s 52 or 55 yards,” Kelly questioned. “To me, he hits the 49-yarder in the cold conditions when the game is on the line against LSU. It just seems like a guy that has to be there in the clutch for you. He can’t be a guy when you roll him up, and everyone goes ‘He isn’t going to make this one.’ He makes big kicks. 

“I’m not concerned on how far back we need to be. His thing is his ability to tune out everything in the big moments and make those kicks when you need him. That’s really how you should look at kickers in my estimation.” 

With that said, Yoon has increased his range to become solid from 52-55 yards out. 

“I believe his strength program has helped me in the sense of giving me confidence,” Yoon stated. “ I’m able to hit the long ones. I don’t think I previously if we were to go back to 55, there were times I thought if I could hit it. 

“A lot has to deal with experience and learning that I have to trust myself.” 

Yoon also credits his father for instilling discipline into his daily life, which is crucial at a program like Notre Dame. 

“Everything I’ve learned so far has come from him and not just regarding kicking but as a person on and off the field,” said Yoon. “He’s a big discipline man, so I’ve learned a lot throughout my years.” 

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